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Little By Little--A Key to a Successful Life

When I was young I had big visions for ministry and life in general.

It's good to think big, but one of the lessons that all of us must learn is that God's ways are often backwards. In His Kingdom, the way up is down; real life comes by dying to self; the more we give, the more we receive etc.

Of those counter-intuitive points, one of the most surprising findings I've made in the past fifty years is this: despite his infinite power and intelligence, God is, at heart, a humble Being.

He's meek, gentle, and quite content to remain behind the scenes. To put it another way, God is into "little" more than "big." In fact, doing things little by little is a key to a successful life.

Here's what I mean.

I know that that God has many facets to His character. He is the magnificent Creator and His authority is unmatched because "His Kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19). 

I'm also aware that when Jesus returns the second time to earth, He will be riding on a white horse as a conquering king, a symbol of power and purity. In other words, God is the strongest authority figure that we can imagine.

He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

But the greatest revelation of his heart was seen in becoming a man in the person of Jesus Christ, walking the earth for thirty years, and then dying a cruel death to save "whosoever wills" from the just consequences of their sins.

As Bruce Shelley points out, "Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God."

That tells you something about Him: He's humble, loving, sacrificial. We often see these things as "little" things. But to God they are big.

Using humility and littleness as synonyms, let's ponder the life of Jesus for a moment:  

  • Jesus was born without worldly fanfare in a cave or primitive barn. Lowly shepherds, not opulent kings, were the only ones privy to the divine visitation.
  • He was raised in a poor family in a meager town named Nazareth. He worked at a "small job" as a carpenter, not a temple priest or wealthy businessman. He faithfully did the "little things" of life for thirty years before beginning his ministry.
  • When he became popular as  a rabbi and healer, he often withdrew to quiet places to be alone and teach his disciples.
  • He lived a simple life without a true home, bed, and "no place to place to lay his head."
  • He was arrested for nothing; he said very little before Pontius Pilate and nothing to the lecherous and immoral Herod.
  • He died on the cross as a common criminal.
  • He rose from the dead--quietly--first showing himself to the once-demon-inhabited Mary Magdalene and a few followers.
  • He then ascended quietly (but majestically) into heaven without the event being carried live on the evening news. 

I think you get the idea.

Jesus revealed the heart of God which is meek, quiet, selfless, and gentle--the opposite of pompous, proud and big. God is really little in attitude and outlook. No wonder He places a premium on his followers faithfully doing things little by little. Humility is one of the sparkling gems of the Nature of God.

I want to apply this insight to the area of time management and stewardship of the things God has given us. To be successful, to be like God, we must learn to do things little by little--humbly, quietly, servingly, and faithfully. Little by little is the key to a successful (God-like) life. 

There are numerous areas to which this principle applies.

Losing weight. This was probably a goal for some of us this summer. Lose those winter pounds. Get out and exercise. Many dieting fads encourage us to eat this, do that, and take off five pounds the first week and twenty by the first month.

Then we get smart and realize we can only really lose 1-2 pounds a week of real fat (not just fluids). So the key to successful dieting is limiting your calories, having self control, and little by little, taking off the excess fat. No fanfare, no grandiose goals.

Just take it off with discipline--little by little.

Protecting your teeth. I was talking to a friend recently who is not taking care of his teeth and is beginning to pay the price in cavities and big bills. Interestingly, the dental profession learned during our lifetime that doing some very little things can give most people great oral health. Simply floss and brush your teeth once or twice a day and you'll rid your body of 80% of diseases and never have dentures.

It's one of the simplest things you can do to save your money and health. A little habit reaps big dividends.

Supplementing your health. We also learned in the 20th century that Western diets are not what they used to be and that taking simple supplements of vitamins and minerals can make a difference. You should watch out for the scams and propaganda (one of my favorite health books is called The New Nuts Among the Berries by Ronald Deutsch), but the little habit of taking vitamins each day can probably add some valuable health and years to your life.

Saving money. This is one area where the "little by little" principle is very clear in Scripture. Proverbs 13:11 tells us that "Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow." Being a good steward means that we tithe to God regularly and save for the future with the same humility and diligence in mind.

Dave Ramsey and others have taught the church for some time to be good stewards with money. Get out of debt, and set a side a little each month so it can build up over a lifetime. It took me some decades to become a saver, but now I see the value of setting aside a little each month in that emergency fund and for future goals. Biblical capitalism is built on this premise--save and invest wisely little by little over a lifetime and in your latter years, your needs will be met and you will be able to give an inheritance to your children (Proverbs 13:22).

It doesn't have to be much. Start with $10 a month and build up to much more. Little by little pays off in all areas of managing your personal finances.

Keeping your home tidy. Shirley and I learned this one during the growing up years of our six kids. At the end of each day, we took a few minutes to teach the kids to pick up the house, toys, dishes etc. Doing a little each day keeps your home from looking like a pig pen and from requiring drastic clean-ups before the relatives arrive. Little by little each day keep the house happy and clean (and when Momma's happy, everybody's happy!).

Caring for your property. We've experienced a hot, wonderful summer in the Pacific Northwest and I've enjoyed our garden and many flowers around the house. What's the secret to keeping everything nice and healthy? Do a little trimming, watering, and weeding each day. I do some in the morning and some in the evening,. Being faithful with the little bit every day makes for a beautiful home and yard--not one full of neglect and weeds.

Dealing with sin in your life. I love the parallel to gardening. If I spend a little time with God every day in his Word and in prayer and worship, and if I daily search my heart and confess to Him whenever I sin in my thoughts or actions, then dealing with sin "little by little" keeps it from becoming a cancer or a time bomb in my life. 

Sin is like weeds. When they poke up, it's best to pull them right away before they take over the lawn. Weed your heart daily (little by little) and do the same with your physical surroundings. Faithfulness or steadiness is a mark of a God-filled life.

Exercising. The older we get, the more we have to limit our long jogs and extensive weight-lifting, but there are still a lot of "little things" we can do to keep our bodies fit. Daily "steps" are a start, and you can even buy an app or counter to help you keep track. I can't run anymore (due to my hips being re-surfaced), but I ride a bike about three miles a day and do some minor weight lifting to simply keep from atrophizing.

What little things can you do to be a good steward of the body God has given you?

Expressing love to others. In the Information Age, there are so many "little things" we can do by way of phoning, texting, face-timing, e-mailing, or even letter writing to let people know that we love and care about them. Doesn't have to take much time--just a little investment in saying ILY. Those little things mean a great deal to those who we care about.

That little whisper of love to others comes from the God of love (1 John 4:8).

Honoring your debts. This is a lesson I learned the hard way and have tried to impart to my children. When you have a debt, pay that other person or group first and be faithful to pay it off little by little. Don't miss payments. Don't rationalize your own consumer desires. Be faithful. Get out of debt faithfully, be committed to saving, and then enjoy being a giver all of your life.

The Bible says that if we're faithful with little, God will entrust us with much (Luke 16:10). Learn that lesson in the realm of money, debt, savings, and giving.

Doing things faithfully and humbly day after day--little by little--is a secret to a healthy, happy, and successful life. In what other areas have you learned that little by little is the godly way? Taking out the garbage? Saying please and thank you? Taking care of your equipment? Teaching yourself a new skill?

I'd love to hear your comments and personal examples.

Let's help each other become more like our Creator by doing the humble, little things that will bring us success and the smile of God.



Reader Comments (2)

So true, it reminds me about what Gods original assignment to all of us was...take care of the earth, the plants and animals and fill it!! Enjoy my marriage, my kids, the simple responsibilities that come with these essential relationships. All of a sudden the weight is lifted and (through grace) I am enough!! Simple Faithfulness is so precious and freeing! Thank you for your timeless thoughts.
August 19, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterangie n.

An excellent reminder of the truth that a "little" goes a long way when it comes to walking on the path that leads to true success. What you shared has great value to me know in that my wife and I are beginning a journey of weight loss that we must do .... to many years of care free eating, ugh!
August 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd Sinke

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